Sunday, August 31, 2008

Living Local

My grandfather lived his entire life here in East Lansing, MI. Maybe not the most glamorous place in the world, but a diverse university town nonetheless. He was born here, grew up in a home on the "main drag" [that now houses students], went to Michigan State University, worked just minutes away from his house, bought cars made in Lansing, contributed to local charities, shopped at a locally-owned grocery store, and didn't like to travel more than a few hours away for anything.

These days, "local" is the buzzword on everyone's lips. Local food, mostly. I was thinking about it today while I ate lunch with a friend at the decidedly non-local Panera Bread Co. [I know, I know. There was a gift card involved!]

It's very fashionable nowadays to shop at farmers markets and sport those "Think global, act local" bumper stickers on your car. But when did it become so terribly taboo to stay in your hometown beyond high school? I grew up here and am now a student at MSU. I've spent time abroad, in Germany, Nicaragua, Argentina... and yet, the town I always complained about in high school has become a place I could see myself living in for a while. I've discovered gems like the Allen St. Farmers Market, various cafés and and restaurants, record stores, bars, bookstores... there's more to connect me to this place than just my parents.

I'm certainly not against moving, and of course you can put down roots anywhere. Sometimes, though, when I tell fellow MSU students that I grew up in East Lansing I get this quizzical stare that says "Wow, you're still here?" And you know what? I'm not ashamed to say that I love and appreciate this town. Would I love and appreciate Detroit, Chicago, Paris just the same? Maybe. Probably. They have a lot of what EL has, and more. There are neighborhoods within cities. You could go anywhere and make new friends, raise a family, live happily ever after. But it's so easy now to move from one place to another, following a job, living in cookie-cutter houses that I think people might be forgetting what it really means to act local. Or, if they haven't forgotten, it just doesn't appeal to them for some reason. Why is that?

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